Middle East Politics, Explained

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Cafeteria Democracy

via The West’s ‘double standards’ in Middle East – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

“We are not only facing a regime and neighbouring powers, but American influence as well. They either do not want to see change or only slight changes that do not give people real democracy because the monarchy might lose power. Everyone sees the US double standards very clearly now. They see Gaddafi hitting people and the US strike back. But here they even bring in foreign armies who don’t believe in democracy and killing people on streets and the US does nothing. It is a big mistake the Americans are making, losing people, losing the faith of the streets.”

The US wants to pick and choose, cafeteria-style, which protests to support and which to ignore.  According to many Middle-Easterners, it does so at the risk of losing the respect of the very people we need to help us fight radical terrorists.

The article points out that by encouraging violent resistance, as opposed to the peaceful protests in Egypt and Yemen, the US may be setting an unfortunate precedent:  more protesters may begin to use violence in Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.

As it happens, in Bahrain, where the movement refuses to move towards violence so far, things have only gotten worse since the crackdown. Rajab declared with a hint of exasperation:

“More people died and injured. The gap between the ruling elite and the people is getting wider and wider. The government is trying hard to incite sectarianism, frightening both Bahraini Sunnis and neighbouring countries, which is why they sent troops to Bahrain. Indeed, by refusing to take a strong stand, did the US not open the way for the Saudis to take control of the situation for their interests. Look, the Bahrainis could have used their own police, not even the army, just the police, to stop this, because we were peaceful.”

But they brought in the Saudis and GCC specifically to regionalise the conflict and raise the stakes.

Some peaceful protesters also feel they have not gotten the publicity that Egyptians and Tunisians had:

Rajab also feels, as many do many Bahraini pro-democracy and their supporters, that Al Jazeera has not done enough to cover the protests, a dynamic which proved so important in increasing support for protesters in Tunisia and Egypt.

What will happen in the region?  How will the US protect its interest and the fledgling democracy movements as well?

As Syria, Jordan and even Morocco see protests that are turning increasingly deadly, the era of the authoritarian bargain in the Middle East is clearly over.

What replaces it across the region has become the most compelling question in global politics today.

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